"Eat this slowly and savor every bite", Dani Raynor advised her colleagues at High Country Health Care in Breckenridge as they sampled the dessert featured in today's column. "It's rich." "It's creamy." "It's sooo elegant", commented Amy Jamison and Heather Andrews. "I'd serve it with coffee after a very special dinner." Dr. Randy Nations agreed with their assessment, but added that, even though it seems like such a classy, adult dessert, his kids would gobble it up. They all concurred that any chocoholic would love the deep, bittersweet taste of the dark chocolate. The group was reviewing a variation of a classic French dessert known by Europeans as pots de crème. This rendition of it is very much like the original, but, because it substitutes stovetop cooking for the usual baking in a water bath, it is easier and quicker to make. It is best made the day before serving, which is a big plus when you're hosting a meal that you hope will be a real fanfare. You want all the time you can get on the day of the party.Don't be tempted to serve it in anything larger than the suggested ramekins. It is so rich that what may initially seem to be an undersized amount is just right. If your business or organization would like to sample and review a baked good for the Life Is Sweet column, please contact Vera Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chocolate Fanfare (Makes 4 servings if using 3 ounce ramekins and 2 if using 5 ounce ramekins) You can double this recipeIngredients2 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped or grated (I use Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate and chop it in a food processor)2 teaspoons of light brown sugar, packed
A pinch of salt5 ounces (2/3 cup) of heavy whipping cream2 egg yolks1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extractOptional topping:Sweetened whipped cream
This dessert is close to foolproof as long as you cook it very gently. So, if you have a double boiler, use it. If you don't, use a medium-sized, heatproof mixing bowl and place it in a saucepan so that it sits a couple of inches above the pan's bottom. Put an inch or so of water in the saucepan, making sure that the bowl is over, not in, the water. Bring the water to a simmer. Put the chopped chocolate in the bowl or the top of the double boiler. Add the brown sugar and the salt, and then slowly pour the cream over them. Stir and cook over the simmering water until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is scalding-steaming, with bubbles around the edges ... very close to boiling. Make sure to do this slowly; keep the water in the base at a simmer. Using a whisk or fork, lightly mix the two egg yolks in a small bowl. Warm them by whisking or stirring one fourth to one-half cup of the warm chocolate mixture into them. Gradually stir the egg yolk-chocolate combination back into the chocolate, stirring all the time. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens. Be sure that the water in the saucepan or base of your double boiler doesn't boil too rapidly; you want the mixture to remain over a low heat so the egg yolks don't scramble. Do not let the chocolate mixture boil. It usually takes about 11-13 minutes for the mixture to thicken sufficiently. Remove the top of the double boiler or the bowl from the heat. Stir the vanilla into the chocolate mixture. It should be smooth and shiny. Slowly pour it into the ramekins. Try to avoid having it splash or spatter. Let the filled ramekins sit out in the kitchen, uncovered, until the chocolate mixture is cooled to room temperature. Then, place them in the refrigerator. When the chocolate is firm and set, cover the ramekins, taking care not to smear the chocolate. The dessert should remain in the refrigerator for at least two hours and up to two days. Remove it about half-an-hour before serving to let it warm a bit. This is wonderful served plain. But, sweetened whipped cream (one half cup of whipping cream, whipped with one and a half teaspoons of sugar and one-half teaspoon of vanilla) is a lovely accompaniment.
This is a variation of a recipe from the Complete Entertaining Cookbook, published by Williams-Sonoma. Life is Sweet: High Country BakingLiving in the Colorado High Country is pure joy. Baking in it isn't. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful. Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude.